The final three flyaway rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship – in Japan, China and Macau, respectively – always attract a coterie of local drivers, and the series’ decision to create a separate championship this year will attract a bumper field of entries.
With the first leg of the three-round WTCC Asia Trophy getting underway with next weekend’s Race of Japan at the Suzuka East circuit, three locally-based outfits have already confirmed their participation for it, and the following two rounds at Shanghai and Guia, respectively.
De Souza and Ng were teammates for China Dragon Racing at last year’s curtain-closer at Macau; de Souza drove an older-spec Chevrolet Lacetti there and at the preceding round at Shanghai with a best finish of 14th over his four races, while Ng had a newer-spec Cruze LT (pictured above right) and claimed a best finish of 17th.
Fellow Macanese racer Jerónimo António Badaraco will make his WTCC debut in the last three rounds in another Chevrolet Cruze LT prepared by Son Veng Racing, which fielded a Honda Accord at last year’s Race of China for Leong Ian Veng. This year it will switch manufacturers ahead of the 39-year-old’s championship debut.
Another outfit confirming its traditional participation in the final three rounds of the championship is the RPM Racing squad, which will field a normally-aspirated BMW 320si for another Macanese driver, Mak Ka Lok.
The 48-year-old has driven at Guia Race of Macau for the team over the last two WTCC seasons, and this year will mark the first time that he has competed at all three Asian events.
|Mak Ka Lok and Henry Ho will return to the WTCC grid for the FIA WTCC Asia Trophy.|
Also making his WTCC return is Henry Ho Wai Kun, who will drive a third BMW 320si entry prepared by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler stable, which fields regular drivers Franz Engstler and Charles Ng in a pair of turbocharged BMW 320TCs.
Ho is another Macau regular, and this season will be his fourth in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. He made his championship debut with the Engstler squad in 2009 (pictured above), before marking further outings in 2010 (in a Ho Chun Kei BMW 320si) and in 2012 (in a Five Auto Racing BMW 320si).
Meanwhile, the Weichers Sport team has announced it will field its third different driver of the 2013 season, confirming that Japanese driver Yukinori Taniguchi will make a one-off series return for the team at next weekend’s round at Suzuka.
Taniguchi last drove in the WTCC in 2011 as a full-time driver for the Bamboo Engineering stable. He finished seventh on home soil to earn his first points finish of the season, but he was sacked after the following round in China when he tried to return his damaged car to the pits and crashed it again.
Taniguchi, 44, replaces the team’s regular driver, Fredy Barth, who has pre-existing commitments in the Emil Frey sports car team on the same weekend.
Taniguchi will be the second local driver in the field, with the JAS Honda team confirming it will run a third works-backed Honda Civic for Super GT championship frontrunner Takuya Izawa.